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Sister Frances Claus and her Toy Workshop

Libby Osgood, novice

Among the many opportunities I had to shadow the sisters of Toronto in their ministries, I had the most fun with Frances Claus in her Toy Workshop in the basement of Our Lady of Lourdes parish. She and her fellow elf Bev are busy each year preparing Christmas packages for 500 children, each package containing an age and gender appropriate combination of toys, crafts, books, balls, and something warm (socks, a hat, or gloves). They register the children in October and receive bags and bags of toys from the local radio station CHUM’s toy drive, but they don’t just distribute the gifts, passing them on. They make sure the boys and girls of each age group receive equivalent packages, and verify that they don’t receive the same gift from the previous year.

After each of the bags for the different age groups and genders are filled, there are two massive wrapping parties that bring together communities of people year after year to help wrap the toys for the children. One evening, pairs from the L’Arche community enjoy Swiss Chalet before wrapping begins and a few days later, dozens of people from the parish share a meal of chili and cookies before wrapping the remaining hundreds of toys. A few Saturdays later, there is a party where the children come with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to receive the gifts, often tearing them open in the parking lot. The parents receive food to bring home and to ensure everyone is included in the holiday giving, an evening is held for singles and couples who receive bags of toiletries and a meal.

Sister Frances and Bev spend the rest of the year organizing the remaining inventory, giving toys to a group of 200 indigenous children and to charities that request donations for their foreign sites. Just like Santa, working in her own North Pole, with seeming boundless energy, Frances tromps up and down concrete steps to provide a ministry that reaches children, parents, singles, couples, the L’Arche community, indigenous people, charities, and volunteers in the parish. Wow!

This novice stands in awe of her and is grateful to the entire Toronto community for their welcome these past few months. The sisters and associates of Toronto have welcomed me to their meetings, their ministries, their homes, and their hearts. I am deeply grateful and return to the novitiate encouraged and excited for my next ministry experience.


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